On Track: Dave Wood's railways column
WITH electrification of the main lines coming to Bristol Temple Meads, Parkway, and Bath Spa by 2018, electrifying the entire West of England rail network is next on rail campaigners' shopping list.
And they have some grounds to be confident this will happen. The Department for Transport last July asked the rail industry to consider electrification of the freight route from Derby to Bristol and all major ports, here in the Greater Bristol area this includes Avonmouth and Royal Portbury Dock.
Network Rail is updating it's electrification strategy, last published in 2009, and the West of England councils have said they will lobby for electrification wires to go up on the Weston, Yate, Portishead, Severn Beach and Henbury lines.
That is brilliant news because when Network Rail's High Output Plant System (HOPS) factory train is in the Bristol area in 2017/18 it is imperative it is kept here to electrify all the local lines, including Portishead for Royal Portbury Dock, Severn Beach to Avonmouth port and the new proposed deep-sea port, and the Henbury Loop which is important to get to Avomouth and Yate.
Having a railway civil engineering background, I can see the obvious advantages of keeping the electrification factory train in the Bristol area to electrify all the local lines.
What concerns me is the West of England Partnership councils could see things differently and let slip the opportunity.
These are decision makers not railwaymen with civil engineering backgrounds.
The HOPS factory train would be able to carry out most of the electrification work in eight-hour weeknight spells.
During the day, staff at the Swindon base will maintain and replenish the factory train.
Roughly 200 employees will be involved, half of whom will work at the base. The other half will form two complete crews for the train.
What we need to do before 2017/18 is put all the single sections of track on the Severn Beach line to double track.
This will make it compatible with the Henbury Loop line, not only will it make for better train frequencies it will give the much-needed track capacity needed on the Severn Beach line, and allow for a better mix of passenger and freight trains.
David Wood of the Rail Maritime and Transport Union, Bristol
Written in a personal capacity.